How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 3 (result: 650)

An ‘official’ practice test today, at London’s Kaplan Centre.

It’s a ‘real’ test of 78 questions, 37 quant and 41 verbal, done in the correct order (quant then verbal). I get raw scores of 24 and 38, corrected to 36 and 42. The combined corrected 78 gives me a projected GMAT of 650, 10 above two days ago. I’m on course – although only at the 85th percentile (i.e. beating 85% of test-takers) due to the weak math score. Here are the essays I did to make this a ‘complete’ test; analysis of multiple choice tomorrow.

Analysis of an issue

The following appeared in the editorial section of a corporate newsletter:

In matching job candidates to openings, managers must consider not only such variables as previous work experience and educational background but also personality traits and work habits, which are more difficult to judge.

What do you consider essential in an employee or colleague? Explain, using reasons and/or examples from your work or worklife experiences, or from your observations of others.

Any manager interviewing a prospective employee will look first for great school grades and a sterling work record. But too many managers stop there – and make their decision based solely on education and experience. I believe that’s a mistake. In my opinion a third attribute surpasses both school and work in importance. That attribute is attitude.

If Sam has a good degree, he’s proven his ability to think and communicate clearly. If Jane has a sterling work record, she’s demonstrated her ability to take responsibility. That gives either candidate a great base. But it’s attitude that will show whether they’re a snug fit for their new roles.

The right attitude can solve almost any problem. A positive mental outlook will create bonds of friendship within a team. A strong sense of personal responsibility will lead to an atmosphere of trust. A desire to do a great job will drive an employee to perform at his peak. With the right attitude, any missing skills can be learned and any knowledge gaps can be closed.

Conversely, a negative attitude can turn the air to poison. Fred’s first-class degree from Oxford means nothing if he’s arrogant beyond words. Claire’s ten years of service add no value if her negativity rubs off on her colleagues. Having the right attitude matters – more than most employers seem to believe.

So when I’m working with a new employee or colleague, what matters most is attitude. If the attitude’s right, the aptitude will follow.

FAULTS: I was quite pleased with this essay. But why did I use ‘sterling’ twice? And given the American preference in the GMAT for longer paragraphs, I should probably have glued the last two together. I like to think this is a 5 though.

Analysis of an argument

The following appeared in the editorial section of a corporate newsletter:

“The common notion that workers are generally apathetic about management issues is false, or at least outdated: a recently published survey indicates that 79% of the nearly 1,200 workers who responded to survey questionnaires expressed a high level of interest in the topics of corporate restructuring and redesign of benefits programmes.”

Discuss how logically convincing you find this argument. In explaining your point of view, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. Also discuss what, if anything, would make the argument more sound and persuasive, or would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The arguments presents workers as keenly interested in high-level business issues, including corporate restructuring and benefits programs. But both these topics affect the worker directly – hitting both his job security and his bank balance. As a result, the argument fails to convince.

‘Corporate restructuring’ is often a euphemism for sacking people. In a firm of 1,200 people, a restructuring program may involve several hundred workers losing their jobs; it’s natural to expect employee interest when they believe they’re about to be laid off! This doesn’t demonstrate workforce fascination with business strategy: rather, it suggests that people worry when they hear talk of layoffs.

Similarly, ‘redesigned benefits programs’ is another (deceptively upbeat) scrap of jargon. With the costs of healthcare, pensions, and perks already sky-high for many companies, few business owners would approve any program that handed out further costly benefits; a ‘redesign’ is all too likely to involve cuts. When a ‘redesigned benefits program’ may mean a poverty-stricken retirement racked by poor health, it’s hardly surprising to find the factory floor is interested.

Finally, the argument is based on weak methodology – a survey of 1,200 workers ‘who responded to questionnaires’. Those most likely to complete a questionnaire are those most interested in the subjects it covers; the sample is self-selecting.

Wishful thinking – such as workers being genuinely interested in the concerns of their company above themselves – can lead to fanciful interpretations of evidence, of which this argument is an example. Since the only evidence presented relates to the likelihood of being sacked and the chance of a benefits cut, the only surprise is that the 79% figure for worker interest is not 100%!

FAULTS: I made a typo in the first sentence – AARGH! But apart from that this isn’t a bad essay. But I need to read the question more carefully. It asks what would make it more persuasive, which I don’t think I answered. I’ll score myself 4.

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